Keeping Lungs Healthy – Diet and Lifestyle Changes
You might think cigarettes (and second-hand smoke) are the only things that impact the health of your lungs. However, just because you don’t smoke, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Keeping lungs healthy is about more than tobacco!
A poor diet and other lifestyle habits can substantially raise your risk of disease to every organ in your body. Even if you’ve never smoked…you can get lung cancer.
The Sugar Connection
Fox Chase Cancer Center did a study on how the glycemic index plays an active role in overall health. Oncologist Dr. Rishi Jain explained, “The glycemic index and glycemic load are methods to estimate the quality and quantity of dietary carbohydrates. Examples of foods with a high glycemic index include white bread and white potatoes.”1
Carbs that are highly processed (a large portion of the Standard American Diet) stimulate more insulin production in the blood. They typically contain high quantities of refined flour and sugar.
Insulin-linked disorders drastically increase your risk of auto-immune disease, inflammation, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer. “Poor dietary habits and obesity play a critical role in cancer development,” said Dr. Jain.
Insulin resistance that leads to diabetes is on the rise in the United States. Diabetes is currently the 7th leading cause of death in American adults.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes was listed as a direct cause of death in 2014 for more than 76,000 people and was the reason for upwards of 37 million doctor or hospital visits.2
When you consistently eat foods that rank high on the glycemic index, you can increase your lung cancer risk by as much as 49% per the study released by University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Dr. Xifeng Wu’s team determined that non-smoking participants who ate high GI foods had double the risk of lung cancer than smokers who ate lower GI foods.
This is groundbreaking science! When you remove smoking as a common denominator, you see the impact that diet alone has on your ability to keep lungs healthy.
Dr. Wu stated, “Although smoking is a major, well-characterized risk factor for lung cancer, it does not account for all the variations in lung cancer risk. Diet may independently, and jointly with other risk factors, impact [the risk for] lung cancer.”
We now know that long-term excessive sugar intake alters you at the cellular level and triggers chemical reactions that aren’t “normal” for the human body. Every year, researchers prove the far-reaching destruction excess sugar has on your health.
Even if you don’t smoke or have never smoked, the threat of lung disease is very real. You need to take steps right now to prevent, slow, or reverse damage to your body.
7 Steps to Keep Lungs Healthy
- Increase your intake of the good stuff. Vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, healthy grains (within reason), grass-fed meats and dairy, green tea, and water all feed your body what it needs to fight for you. No, this isn’t all you need to eat but these foods will give your body the healthy fuel it needs effectively and efficiently.
- Throw out the garbage. You already know what it is how hard it is to kick. Go cold turkey or step yourself down a little at a time but get the junk food, fast food, and generally over-processed fake food out of your life for good. Say no to the hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and chemical additives. If it comes in a box, bag, or can – your body probably doesn’t want it.3
- Boost specific antioxidants daily. There are specific compounds that help your keep lungs healthy and they’re available in food. Catechins (found in berries, dark chocolate, red wine, and tea), kaempferol (found in leafy greens), quercetin (found in apples, peppers, and tomatoes), phytoestrogens (found in legumes, nuts, and seeds), and vitamin C (found in leafy greens, citrus, berries, and melons) are all excellent ways to boost your body’s natural fighting power.4
- Get exercise each and every day. There are countless benefits to moving your body. One of the best is movement stimulates your lymph system – the backbone of your immune system! It helps to get lymph fluid moving more efficiently to wash your cells and transport toxins out of your body. If you’ve recently quit smoking, regular exercise is a great way to get the “sludge” out of your body a little faster.
- Practice deep breathing techniques. This simple practice has been shown to “work out” your lungs, increase lung capacity, and lower body-wide inflammation (a cornerstone of all major disease). Along with movement, deep breathing is an excellent way to boost your lymph system. A great side effect of deep breathing exercises is lower stress and a healthier heart. This one is simple and free.
- Clean the space and air around you. There isn’t a lot you can do about outdoor pollution (other than relocating – and that’s just not an option for many). However, the space in which you live and work is much more firmly in your control. Consider an air purifier to remove dust, pollen, dead skin cells, and pet dander from the places you spend most of your time in your home. Keeping your home clean with natural products is another easy method to lower your exposure to toxic fumes.5
- If you smoke…STOP. This is the biggest one (and you already know that). It’s the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Your body literally begins to recover within hours of your last cigarette and within 9 months, your lungs have significantly healed themselves from the damage caused by tobacco use. Read more about the health benefits timeline that happens after you quit smoking for good on Medical News Today.6
Install an inexpensive radon detector in your home. This silent killer (it has no smell or taste) is literally everywhere and accounts for about 20,000 lung disease deaths annually. It’s incredible that no one talks about it.
Keep lungs healthy with the right diet and daily habits. You’ll breathe easier…and lower your overall risk of all disease (which is a great side effect).
1 Health: The Diet That Raises Your Risk for Lung Cancer, Even if You Don't Smoke
2 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diabetes
3 Health: 12 Ways to Keep Your Lungs Strong and Healthy
4 Coach MD: Smoker? Former Smoker? Try These Foods to Clean Up Your Lungs
5 Government of Canada: How Can I Keep My Lungs Healthy
6 Medical News Today: What happens after you quit smoking?
7 American Cancer Society: How to Test Your Home for Radon